1302. Robert Southey to John May, 30 March 1807

1302. Robert Southey to John May, 30 March 1807 ⁠* 

My dear friend

I am just now enabled to give you some intelligence concerning my self. In this topsey-turveying of ministers Wynn was very anxious as he says ‘to pick something out of the fire’ for me. The Registership of the Vice Admiralty Court in St Lucie [1]  was offered – worth about 600 £ a year – he wrote to me offering this – or as an alternative (the only one in his power) a pension of 200 £, – but before my answer [2]  could arrive it was necessary that he should chuse for me, & he judged rightly in taking the latter. Fees & taxes will reduce this to 160 £ – the precise sum for which I have hitherto been indebted to him – so that I remain with just the same income as before; – the different source from which it is derived is however as you may suppose sufficiently grateful – for tho Wynn could, till now, well afford this, & I had no reluctance in accepting it from one who is the oldest friend I have in the world (for we have xxx been intimate for 19 years) – he has now nearly doubled his expenditure by marrying, & his wifes fortune could have been very little. This I suppose is asked for, & granted to me as a man of letters – in which character I feel myself fully & fairly entitled to receive it, – & you know me too well to suppose that it can make me lose one jot of that freedom both of opinion & of speech, without which I should think myself unworthy – not of this poor xxxx earthly pittance alone – but of Gods air & sunshine, & my inheritance in heaven.

I sent you the Specimens, [3]  – & shall <have to send you,> owing to some omissions of Bedfords making, a supplementary volume hereafter, [4]  – which will complete its bibliographical value – of its other merits & defects hereafter – It will not be very long before you (I trust) before you will receive Espriella [5]  – the Printer [6]  promises to quicken his pace, – & I hurry him, anticipating that this book will give you & my other friends some amusement & deserve approbation on higher grounds.

Thank you for all your kindness to Harry – I have been daily in hopes of hearing what you thought of him.

This change of ministry – I am as hostile to the measure which was the pretext for it as the King himself, – but having conceded that measure, the Kings conduct is equally exceptionable. [7]  Neither the country nor the Commons called for the change – & they were getting credit & deserving it – by the Army Bill – the blessed Abolishment of the Slave Trade [8]  – the projected reforms – & the projected plan for educating the poor. And now their places are to be filled by a set of men of tried & convicted incapacity, with an old woman at their head! [9]  – But I must refer you to my friend D Manuel Alvarez [10]  for the reasons why there is always a lack of talents in the English Government.

God bless you, yrs in haste


Monday March 30. 1807.


* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ Richmond/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: [partial] E/ APR2/ 1807; 10o’C[MS torn]/ A[MS torn]/ 180[MS torn]
Endorsement: No. 126 1807/ Robert Southey/ No place 30th March/ recd. 2d April/ ansd. 7th do
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 72–74; Charles Ramos (ed.), The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 111–112. BACK

[1] The Caribbean island of St Lucia. BACK

[2] For this letter, see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 27 March 1807, Letter 1300. BACK

[3] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[4] This was planned, but not issued. BACK

[5] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[6] Letters from England was being printed by Richard Taylor (1781–1858; DNB). BACK

[7] The so-called Ministry of All the Talents, of which Wynn was a member, fell in March 1807 because the King would not accede to its plan to introduce an act emancipating Catholics from the civil penalties and restrictions placed upon them. BACK

[8] By the first of these measures the government of which Wynn was a member limited the term for which soldiers could enlist; the second was passed into law in March 1807. BACK

[9] The new Prime Minister was William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738–1809; DNB). BACK

[10] The putative author of Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK